‘To Do’ vs. ‘To Be’ in the New Year

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

Happy New Year AW Geniuses!

As the 2014 year comes to a close, I wanted to talk briefly about resolutions and setting goals being that this is the common theme during this time of year.

There are plenty of articles out there that explain, “10 Best Ways to Pick Your New Year Resolution”, “How to stick to your 2015 goals”, etc.

Regardless of what you plan to do, I challenge each of you to always have a ‘To Be’ goal vs. a ‘To Do’ goal.

The difference?

A ‘To Do’ sounds like a list of things you have to check off. Once you check off the list, the item that was once a burden on your list is now a thing of the past and off of your mind.

However, a ‘To Be’ goal is what will illicit true change in a person and lead to a more successful mindset.

It is important to understand and note that any achievement worth working towards is going to take a lot of time and an enormous amount of effort. I have been a part of many teams in the past and the number one thing that separated the successful teams from the rest was the team’s ability to ‘make payments’ in the present in order to afford a future goal.

For example: An athlete who is working toward making his or her varsity team in the spring must understand that in order to do this it does not take just a superior attitude and effort at the tryout. They understand that this level of effort and attitude must be present during every aspect of their life leading up to the tryout. At the beginning of workouts in the fall, this athlete might find it difficult to drag themselves to a workout or make good decisions come meal time. Although, after just a little bit of the athlete continuously working on being the best they can possibly be at all aspects of their life, they will all of a sudden recognize these ‘burdens’ or ‘chores’ turn from a ‘I have to go work out today’ to ‘I get to go work out today.’ Still, the athlete pushes their body past the point of comfort, listens to what their body needs (adequate sleep, water, and food) and before they know it the ‘get to’ turns into a ‘want to’.

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a team with this type attitude at Athletes Warehouse. Our staff does not view our duties in order for this company to run as a ‘job’ or ‘burden’ but instead as an enormous opportunity. Each and every one of us relish in the opportunity to coach athletes and pour our passion and knowledge from past experience into the facility and the athletes that come through our doors on a daily basis.

We promise to constantly challenge ourselves TO BE prepared, passionate, and diligent in every aspect of our lives. We will hold ourselves accountable to these standards as we welcome in the New Year and hope to continue helping others in our lives do the same.

Happy New Year to you all and we hope to see you soon!

AW Coaching Chronicles, Week 1

AW Geniuses,

It’s that time of year again. Winter is officially upon us. Although the leaves have not fully vacated the trees and there is no sight of snow for (hopefully) a long time, the winter season at Athletes Warehouse started last week. This point of the year is marked by time our teams begin training with us. Our turf is usually packed from 3pm – 9pm and our gym is filled with hungry individuals who truly understand that in order to transform their game in the spring, the hard work and dedication begins now.

For each week of the winter we as coaches will be highlighting various individuals or teams, coaching concepts, or answering questions from our athletes in an attempt to engage conversation among other professionals in the field of strength and conditioning, parents, and or other athletes themselves.  We will be keeping a more conversational vernacular in an effort to evoke responses and discussions.

So, without further ado, I present to you our first Coaching Chronicle Article:

Progressing The Athlete Through Movement

Our graphic of the week highlights our movement progression triangle that shows our considerations when coaching an athlete in the weight room through strength development, speed, change of direction, and power. This is our ultimate goal with every athlete that walks in the building:

The foundation of our triangle is POSITION. With this, we ask ourselves, “Is the athlete capable of achieving the positioning they need to in order to complete the exercise/movement?” This could be a structural issue or a competency issue. Either way, we are looking for the limiting factors of the human system. Once the athlete is capable of achieving the correct positioning, we ask ourselves, “Can this athlete move properly from position A to position B?” For example: The athlete may understand what they need to look like at the bottom of the squat but in order to get to the that position they load their knees first and then shift back into their hips. The movement from position A to position B is flawed thus our focus needs to be on progressing the proper movement pattern and teaching the brain how to tell the body how to move. Next, is speed. Everyone loves to talk about speed and how fast an athlete can move however, when we think of speed with this triangle we think of slow motion. In order to enhance our first two bases of the triangle, positioning and movement, we need to first tempo the movement. For example: We will require an athlete to take 10 seconds to get to the bottom of the squat. Then we will make them hold that position for 5 seconds before taking another 5-10 seconds to return to the start position. This is important because it gives us as coaches an opportunity to better see how the athlete moves and on top of that, the athlete will begin to learn their movement as well! Lastly, is load. So many times strength and conditioning is associated with adding a barbell with a ton of weight. This is our last consideration when working with a youth athlete. Unfortunately, many professionals in the field interpret training an athlete as this triangle flipped upside down with the weight being the most important thing. Remember, it is not how much weight you move it is how you move the weight that matters the most!

Evaluations

One of the most difficult things to do with our winter sessions is to decide on our evaluation protocol for each athlete, group, and team. Here are our concerns with looking at which tests to complete:

How many sessions will this team be coming for? 8, 12, 16 weeks?

How many times per week will the team be coming?

With keeping the first two questions in mind, how committed are the athletes?

This third one is important. If we have a 12 week program where the athletes are scheduled to come 2 times per week, that is a total of 24 sessions to get better. Improvement during that time frame should be tremendous! However, we have athletes who unfortunately won’t come but once every two weeks. If we have an entire team with this type of commitment and attendance it will severely alter our standards for evaluation protocol. Sometimes, our evaluation protocol for our younger population is just filming them perform a basic movement screening. Their technique and awareness of how they squat, lunge, jump, and run will be changed the most – factors that may not show up on a pro-agility test when working with a 10 year old.

What are the demands of the sport?

A 40 yard dash makes a lot more sense to test with our lacrosse athletes than it does our softball athletes. Should we radar gun our pitching group? Should we radar the shot of our lacrosse boys? Should we use bat metrics for any of our baseball or softball hitters when they swing? Are we becoming too goal oriented instead of process oriented with these? Is it safe to ever do a 1RM? Is it safer or more putting the athlete at a higher risk to do a 3RM or 5RM? Our goal is to still steer toward the realm of strength and conditioning while still being able to add the sport specific touch necessary for our more elite athletes. We also want to foster a strong and resilient mental game that is focused on improving themselves in the process opposed to just focusing on the numbers during evaluations.

How will we store and track the data we get from these athletes?

Keeping all of the information in one place for 800 athletes per week when you have 5 coaches can be a gigantic task. Fortunately for us, there are softwares like TrainHeroic that we have been utilizing and loving. We’ve tried out various softwares and yes, even tried to make our own, but TrainHeroic has been the most user friendly and detail oriented program we’ve found. They are made by people that get strength and conditioning and that helps a ton.

We’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to comment on the types of evaluations you run for your athletes, how you determine which tests to run with them and if you have any other data collection techniques that work well!

See you guys next week,

Coach Cassie

Female Strong!

PURPOSE: To explain the importance of strength training for a youth FEMALE athlete and debunk myths that still exist about women getting ‘bulky’ if they lift weights.

POINTS OF EMPHASIS:

Strength training can and will prevent injury for female athletes.

How the perception of the female athletes is seen both in society and within themselves.

How a good coach can create confidence and a sense of empowerment.

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

Hello Research Geniuses!

What an eventful winter season we have had so far at Athletes Warehouse. Various athletes from different age groups, sports, and locations have flooded through the doors in an attempt to better themselves for their upcoming seasons. Having been an athlete my entire life, it has been especially gratifying to see the number of girls that train with us on a daily basis. It seems that in society today, the general consensus has been that the weight room is not a place for females and historically has been dominated by males. Except for recently. For various reasons (Crossfit, “Strong is the new sexy” campaign, female sports being televised more and more, etc.) it is more common to see women training and working out to be strong opposed to dieting to be ‘skinny.’

Now, in the strength and conditioning industry, the topic of ‘Will women get bulky if they lift?’ has been exhausted. However, I feel that this topic has not been effectively translated to our youth just yet. As our company slogan states, we are constantly pursuing new ways to redefine the youth training industry. Our goal is to continuously educated our athletes and our community as to why we do the things we do.  

The Importance of Strength Training for Females

There are several physiological reasons why a young female should strength train. Female athletes who regularly participate in sport and physical activity (specifically load bearing exercises) can show an increase in bone mineral density. This increase in density will likely lead to a reduced risk of bone fractures in sport or later in life (1). Another positive benefit associated with resistance training is the enhancement of ligament strength and load capabilities. With such an abundant amount of youth females suffering ACL injuries, this alone might be the most impactful benefit (2). In addition to the development of ligamentous strength, researchers have found that the poor development of a female athletes hips and hamstrings can lead to increased occurrences of valgus knee actions (3,4). Many researchers have pointed to valgus knee action as the more prominent mechanism which can lead to ACL tears.

What is surprising to most people is that this increase in strength is not necessarily due to muscular strength but neuromuscular strength.

Instead of the body building more muscle, the central nervous system will recruit muscle fibers at a more accurate and likely faster rate, thus increasing efficiency and overall strength.  A female athlete will decrease her risk of injury just by increasing her movement pattern competency and learning the proper way in which her body should be positioned when jumping, landing, cutting, accelerating, decelerating, etc (5).

Aside from the physiological benefits of strength training, females possess a huge advantage by gaining a psychological prowess.

Being a strong female athlete will EMPOWER you as a person.

In lieu of the Always, ‘Like a Girl’ campaign being aired during the super bowl, I’ve attached the commercial. There is so much to learn from this one ad about anyone who is in a position to influence a young female athlete. As a coach, teacher, mentor, etc, never forget that you could be THE NUMBER ONE biggest influence in that youth’s life. This is not a burden but however an extraordinary privilege and responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. It is something that we at AW take tremendous pride in.

Can I not lift as much weight? I don’t want to get bulky…

*Insert cliche comment about if I had a dollar for every time I got asked this* There are a number of reason why many people believe lifting weights will make a female appear ‘bulky.’ One of which is the comparison to guys or the ultra jacked females they may see in magazines and on television competing in body building or strong woman competitions. Among of the many hormonal differences between males and females, testosterone is one of the greater limiting factors preventing women from developing large muscle mass.  One of the biggest difference between males and females is testosterone. Males possess 15-20 times the amount of testosterone than females do.

Therefore, due to the lack of testosterone, when women strength train with resistance training they will increase their STRENGTH not their SIZE.

Proof this comes from various studies. One study in particular looked at 24 different women over a 20 week heavy resistance training program. Twice a week these women trained lower body exercises and saw significant increases in lean muscle mass and significant decreases in body fat percentage. With these changes, the females saw zero change in thigh girth (6). Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, so people who can simultaneously lose five pounds of fat and gain five pounds of muscle will weigh the exact same but will look, perform, and feel significantly different.

Having a higher muscle mass percentage will actually boost your metabolism at rest. So, although you might not burn as many calories in your lifting session as you maybe would a cardio session, you will continue to burn calories throughout the rest of your day after your strength training workout. Any time females begin to see muscles on their body it is usually due to a decrease in body fat rather than an increase in muscle size.

Understand that weight gain does not necessarily mean muscle growth. At Athletes Warehouse, our primary client is the youth athlete. Most of these athletes are in the middle of puberty and are not fully developed in their maturation levels. Due to this, many athletes both male and female will see increases in overall growth: height, weight, and strength due to natural developmental causes and not solely due to strength training done at our facility. It is also pertinent for our athletes to understand that their daily diet is most likely a bigger factor in an increase or decrease in weight than lifting alone.

So, remember girls, lifting heavy weights will not make you huge and bulky. Lifting heavy weights will make you strong, decrease your risk of injury, empower you as an athlete, and overall help make you a more confident, reassured and powerful woman!

Nichols, D.L., Sanborn, C.F., Essery, E.V. “Bone density and young athletic women.”  (2007). Sports Medicine. Volume 37, Issue 11, pp 1001-1014

Zatsiorky, V., Kraemer, W. (2006). ‘Science and Practice of Strength Training – 2nd Edition.’

Hollman, J. H., J. M. Hohl, J. L. Kraft, J. D. Strauss, and K. J. Traver. 2013. “Modulation of Frontal-Plane Knee Kinematics by Hip-Extensor Strength and Gluteus Maximus Recruitment during a Jump-Landing Task in Healthy Women.” Journal of Sport Rehabilitation 22 (3): 184-190.

Wild, C. Y., J. R. Steele, and B. J. Munro. 2013. “Insufficient Hamstring Strength Compromises Landing Technique in Adolescent Girls.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 45 (3): 497- 505.

Parsons, J.L. “Assessing and modifying neuromuscular risk factors for anterior cruciate ligament injury in female athletes.” (2014). Thesis. University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Staron, R.S., Malicky, E.S., Leonardi, M.J., Falkel, F.C., Hagerman, F.C., & Dudley, G.A. 1990. “Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women.’ European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 

being a female athlete is exciting.As a female athlete you can do female athlete stuff that only you can do.

Being a Female at an Olympic Lifting Competition

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

‘It almost feels like game-day.’ That was the first thought that crossed my mind when I woke up on the morning of the Toss Daddy Open – a USAW sanctioned Olympic Lifting Competition hosted at Athletes Warehouse on June 14, 2015.

I grew up playing softball my entire life and enjoyed the opportunity to continue my career at the University of Alabama. During my four year collegiate career, our team was able to make it to the Women’s College World Series three times and win it all in my final season. I have experienced big games on ESPN, big crowds of 10,000+ people, and big moments throughout my time there. Every morning that I got to play, I would wake up with a distinct feeling that would mean only one thing: It was gameday and that meant I was going to get an opportunity to compete.

Being removed from softball for three years now, I was slightly reminded of that feeling as I got out of bed at 6:30am. Weigh-ins would be at 9am and for me, the competition would start two hours after that.

As a female athlete, my weight has always been an interesting concept.

“Don’t worry about your weight, it doesn’t mean anything,”

“Muscle is more dense than fat, pounds don’t matter!”

That’s great, I think this is a really healthy way of perceiving ones self-image especially as a female and I’m thankful I was brought up in an environment that emphasized overall health and wellness opposed to number on a scale. However, in an olympic lifting competition, your body fat to muscle mass percentages don’t matter. Now, the only thing that matters is that number on the scale. That one number determines just how impressive your lifts are and what weight class category you fit into to compete in. The more I’ve learned about this sport, the more I’ve learned that understanding your body weight and at which weight you as a lifter operate best at is part of the sport! In fact, learning how to ‘cut weight’ right before a meet can be the difference in a first place finish in a lighter weight class vs. a last place finish in a heavier weight class. This was a new element to sport that I had previously never experienced in softball. On top of having to be personally concerned about what I’d weigh-in at, my actual weight would be announced right before my lift.

“Oh man, everyone is going to know what I weigh?” The thought definitely crossed my mind, but I quickly got over this and just accepted that this is a part of this sport.

Something that I have learned my entire life playing sports is that my identity is whatever I want it to be and my self-worth can never be determined by anything other than what I choose it to be. I chose to have a large portion of my identity cemented as a female athlete. 

Upon arrival and weigh ins, warm ups began to take place. Lifting as an extra, I would one of the first lifters to compete along with the other extras and the first males group. Thus, I’d be warming up with all other males. Believe it or not, this is something I have gotten used to and it usually does not phase me anymore. I’ll admit though, when I first started strength training in the weight room, there was an intimidation factor that came with lifting with other males and being the only female. I didn’t want to be viewed as the ‘girl that didn’t know what she was doing.’

I figured out quickly that there was only one way to get over this discomfort, keep doing it until it gets comfortable.

As a coach, I love introducing olympic lifting to both my male and female athletes for several reasons.

1. I think the body awareness, kinematic sequencing, power potential, and absorption of forces that can be gained from olympic lifting will improve almost any athlete in any sport.

2. Secondly, I feel there is a massive psychological aspect to this training modality. Olympic lifting requires the upmost focus – it demands respect and never allows an athlete to ‘take a rep off.’ Getting heavy weight from the floor above your head is also very empowering.

Male, female, young, old: Saying you can safely, effectively, and powerfully get something heavy over your head leaving you in a triumphant position can and will boost confidence and moral in just about any individual.

3. Lastly, I love teaching these lifts because there is a competitive platform if the athlete is ever interested in taking the sport further. Athletics comes to an end for everyone at some point – whether it happens at the end of a pro, collegiate, high school, or little league level, the opportunity to remain competitive comes to an end. However, for those interested, olympic lifting can be another option for sport.

Of all the great reasons that come with teaching and coaching these lifts to my athletes, my reasons for competing were different. I missed being an athlete, more specifically I miss being a female athlete. There is something so invigorating about doing something that you’re not supposed to do or expected to do. It is an amazing feeling to defy odds and be stronger, more athletic, or confident than others would initially assume. As a female athlete, I always felt like I had an alter ego on the softball field. It was my opportunity to give way to any primal desires I had. I was able to turn my back to any problems or stressors I had in my life and instead focus solely on playing and competing.

Secondly, I view the opportunity to be a role model to other female athletes an extreme privilege and massive responsibility. I relish in the opportunity to be in a position where someone is looking up to me, specifically younger females. If the one day I competed, one younger girl could see that it’s ok to lift heavy weights, its ok to be stronger than a guy, and its ok to play a sport and be an athlete then I’d consider that a great day. With this last thought on my mind, deciding to compete in the Toss Daddy Open became a no-brainer.

At the end of warm-ups, right before it was my turn to lift, I got to see two generations collide head first. Three younger girls ages 8, 10, and 11 came running over so excited to watch the rest of warm-ups and other females lift later in the day.

“You guys going to do this one day?” I asked them.

“I hope so!” One of them excitedly exclaimed.

As if scripted for a sitcom, my 80 year old grandfather walked over.

“I didn’t know girls could do this type of stuff, be careful you don’t hurt yourself!”

I couldn’t help but smile and feel like the olympic lifting community and the strength and conditioning industry was making huge strides to not only improve athletes but redefine the definition of a female athlete.

Movement Talk: The Banded Goodmorning

Movement progression is something that we use within training cycles and programming in order to ensure an athlete can properly complete a main lift. For example, if the objective of the day is to get a youth athlete ready to back squat, we are going to program the main lift first and work backwards from there. What type of muscle activation does this athlete need? What type of movement activation does this athlete need? Movement activation is what we use the banded goodmorning for.

I am going to walk you through a sample deadlift day and explain the programming behind our muscle activation and movement activation. At the end, we’ve highlighted the banded good-morning as our movement exercise explanation. The video will take you through what we are trying to accomplish with this exercise as well as common deficiencies we often see when completing this movement.

As coaches, we love incorporating the deadlift for it’s overall strength benefits which initially will lead more to injury prevention with our athletes opposed to performance enhancement.  Teaching an athlete how to stabilize their midline while completing a proper hinge movement during the descent of the deadlift while simultaneously  bracing and driving through the ground on the ascent of the deadlift movement will translate extremely well to athletic performance.

As an example for today, we are going to use Sample Athlete A. Based on the initial consultation, Athlete A tends to struggle in the hinge position due to poor glute activation and midline awareness illiteracy. This athlete comes to us at around 4pm after sitting in class all day with poor posture. This coupled with the fact that they play softball and field hockey and are predominately in a flexed hip position while playing leads to typical quad dominant athlete. This athlete will present with extremely tight hip flexors, tight quads, under active glutes, and thus a lordotic posture.

Once we have decided that the athlete’s main movement of the day will be to deadlift, as coaches we then need to decide on what muscle inhibition, muscle activation, and movement activation need to happen in order for this athlete to get the most out of their main lift for the day.

First, how do we address the over-dominant quad and tight hip flexor?

Muscle Inhibition: 

1. Quad foam roll

2. Couch stretch

Now, how do we address the under-active glute and poor midline awareness?

Muscle Activation: 

1. Glute bridge

The purpose of this movement is to focus on glute activation and stabilization. Movement should be performed slow and controlled in order to focus on this region.

2. Plank work

Massive emphasis on posterior pelvic tilt. Avoid allowing the lower back to droop during the hold.

Movement activation:

Lastly, we’d progress to the movement activation. Here we have highlighted the banded good-morning.

Making sure the athlete has properly progressed and is ready to begin lifting is essential for injury prevention. This will also ensure that the athlete is ready to get the most out of their main strength or power movement.

AW Coaching Chronicles, Week 2

Dear AW Geniuses,

We have officially logged two weeks in the books for team training, winter 2016. With so many athletes in our building at one time, our community (athletes, parents, coaches, and other professionals) often ask, “How can you possibly train your athletes with the proper personalized programming and coaching that is needed in order to be safe and effective?”As coaches at Athletes Warehouse, we never try to deceive; We are not trying to pull the quilt over anyone’s eye and say that team training is just as effective as individualized training. We will all tell you that a one on one training experience for our athletes would be vastly different than a team training atmosphere. However, we would also explain that there are distinct benefits to a team training atmosphere as well (i.e. cost reduction, competitiveness, team camaraderie, etc.).  While the more convenient and cost effective option may have some added benefits there is still a distinct difference among the experience of a one-on-one training session.  However, our team works tirelessly at try to combat combat the typical over generalized, militant style team training environments. Our main goals are to apply the common principles being utilized in the strength and conditioning industry as well as intertwine the world of research into every training session we have. Completing 100 burpees in an hour as a form of discipline does not accomplish either of those aforementioned goals. Thus, the topic of our second winter coaching chronicle is to explain how we effectively group teams in order for them to get the most out of their team training time at Athletes Warehouse.

Get organized

Organization is the key to being an effective professional in any field. It especially becomes   important when you begin training a large volume of athletes. Organization does not just ensure that we as coaches can properly track data but it also aids in injury prevention as well – making sure the environment and training protocol is safe for the athletes. Here are some tools we use to stay organized with our athletes.

Daily Meetings – Each day the group of coaches will meet at 1:30pm to discuss the current training plans for the day. We will debrief the staff on the teams renting our turf, small and large groups training in our building that day, the times that in and out traffic will be high, equipment that is needed, training areas being utilized, and which training sessions our junior coaches will be most useful on. This gets everyone on the same page and allows us to solve potential conflicts at 1:30pm opposed to at 6pm when our building is mayhem.

Team Grouping and Scheduling Sheets – The two sheets shown above are our lifelines for great organization. The scheduling sheet allows us to see which days the athletes from a particular team are coming in to train. The days in yellow are indicating our evaluation days and the days in gray are indicating when the team has requested time off for holidays, breaks, or competition. Our grouping sheet is great for adding athletes to their team within a team. The ‘A group’ is usually the group that is most comfortable in the weight room completing movements and possesses the least risk for injury. The ‘C group’ is on the opposite end of the spectrum where they are uncomfortable completing exercises in the weight room, are at a high risk of injury or possess a current injury themselves. Group B is combination of the athletes who fall somewhere in the middle. Notice that whether or not an athlete landed in group A, B, or C had zero to do with talent or athletic ability in their specific sport. Instead, it was merely predicated on how we would begin to program for the vast array of athletes we experience within a team. This initial grouping is predicted based on the athletes maturity, comfortability in the weight-room, leadership, and concentration/attention capabilities.  Due to the fact that many athletes excel at different movements, ideals, and constructs, these groups are forever changing as an athlete who has started in Group A for squatting may actually be in C for a hinge day simply because they can not grasp that skill quite yet.

Awareness of Attendance

Anytime you want to plan for anything in advance, it helps to know what you’re going up against. Fortunately for us at Athletes Warehouse, our team in comprised of some awesome members that are able to immerse themselves in conversations with our team coaches and players. The continuous emails and phone calls can be a lot of work but it brings us one step closer to being the most prepared facility we can be. During our team meeting we as coaches will get a rundown from our scheduling coordinator and Assistant Managers, Claire and Ryan, as to how many people will be in attendance that day for each group and team. This way, we know if we are preparing for a team of 20 or group of seven, how many coaches need to be assigned to the team and if extra help is needed on that team from our junior coaches.

Take great notes

During the initial evaluation process, it is imperative to utilize this time as effectively as possible. If we can take detail oriented notes during this time we will have one more source of information that can be used to write that athlete’s program. Information on injuries, movement patterns, discomfort, tightness, and growth are just a few examples of what might be added to the notes section when evaluating an athlete. For example: During the warm up we may have noticed an inability for a few athletes to take off an land without their knees crashing. Additionally, these same athletes experienced difficulty completing the glute bridge exercise and felt extreme discomfort during a hip flexor stretch. These simple three snit-bets of information will lead us to group these athletes together as their prehab protocols will probably be extremely similar.

Grouping of the Athletes while Writing the Program

I think the best way to explain a typical grouped programming day is to show you one.

OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING: THROUGH THE EYES OF A COACH

By Nick Serio

‘with a primal lens’

A successful coach is one who can guide and elicit the behaviors necessary in a given environment to achieve a desired outcome.  Normally a coach is praised, ranked, or disparaged based on attributes such as expertise, coaching style, and methodology.  However, in moments of competition, battle, or survival these attributes may survive the leaders rank but pale in comparison to the needs for objectivity, concise analysis, and definitive articulation.  A coach’s ability to understand both the environment and their athletes self-and-socially perceived place within that environment, is crucial to behavioral guidance.

Thus, this article is intended to provide a lucid description of the climatic underpinnings and behavioral battles that develop within the competitive platform of Olympic Weightlifting through the eyes of a coach.

THE FACILITATOR: “THE COACH”

A coach is purely a manager of behaviors.  Their interests lie in either the controlling or eliciting of consequences via education, behavioral guidance, and climatic control.  This is all with the idea that consequences are not only interpreted in a negative light, which is common to societies use of the term, but also as a potential positive reaction to environment variabilities.  However, the behavioral guidance of a coach can, and should, only go so far.  Fore, if their efforts over-reach or boarder on manipulation, their behavioral intentions can produce negative consequences in an athlete and have lasting effects (i.e. the development of ‘fear of failure’ or ‘burnout’). 

The importance of understanding not only the aura of the environment they are educating within, but the quality and quantity of motivation their athlete possess, is absolutely crucial to proper behavioral control.  Once again, a coach is merely a facilitator of consequences not direct ability, skill, or athleticism.  At the time of competition the three aforementioned attributes can no longer be manipulated without the introjection of behavioral and psychological management. Attitude and effort stand alone as the two affective criterion in which a coach must influence.

THE MARCHING OF THE MILITIA: “START OF COMPETITION DAY”

Olympic Weightlifting (OLY) is a sport with clear delineation from likes of the Greeks and Romans, with its almost parallel affinity to a ‘Gladiator-esque’ atmosphere.  However, this is not a sport defined merely by size and strength but by mastery and technique as the alpha of this coliseum could be 5’5” and weigh a 160 pounds.  Thus, the battle is often won with strategy and sheer mental focus; strategy which begins from the moment the athlete steps foot in the arena. 

As the gates for competition open, the athletes begin to fill the arena bolstered by their entourage of coaches, followers, and pupils.  All proudly displaying their colors and emblems like badges of armor, representing a unified support for their tribe or militia.  Each militia’s color scheme more grandiose than the next, but not with interest in vanity, but with design in boasting superiority and evoking fear.  Thus, the marching of colors has anointed the start of the battle. Strategy has been initiated, but more importantly so has the THE CUNNING HUNT!

THE CUNNING HUNT: “WARM-UP AREA”

As the first match nears closer, the athletes will take to the warm-up area and claim their preferred stage.  I choose the label ‘STAGE’ here over ‘PLATFORM’ as this precursory battle ground, is for some, as much about a theatrical performances as it is predatory practice.  It is here that you will see the challengers, the presumed betas, choose the stage with the most eyes, and the most viewpoints.  They lumber around with boisterous noise, as they slam the platform with sheer aggression and fury.  This demonstration may seem predatory yet its primary interests lies in the demonstration of strength, speed, and power.  Hoping to evoke fear and envy into the souls of their eluding adversaries as they dominate the attention and focus of all.

As the demonstrations of power and ascendance continues there is one among the heat who remains calm and astute.  He drifts to the far back of the room, obscured by the grandiose spectacles of their hopeful successors, as he takes the stage with the most vantage points.  He rejoices in his solitude as his patience has been earned by knowledge and experience.  He knows the battle is not won with boisterous proclamations but cunning strategy and stealthy attacks.  It is as though he welcomes intruders, challenging those who feel they are relevant to demonstrate why they should be compared to the likes of his prowess.  As he knows here, in this time is where he will capitalize on the less experienced lifters, as they will begin to falter.  First it is their focus, as they become egregiously ego-oriented, self-absorbed with the perceptions of others, their talents, so mitigated by the paralysis of comparisons and fears of future failures. Next comes a break in their strategy and fatigue begins to consume them as the stress hormones rage through their body like a virus attacking adrenal like a plague.  But this is exactly what the alpha planned, this is his cunning strategy, their experience oozes from them like a pheromone of dominance, as they remain cool, they flow through the room, absorbing the focus of all.  They remain vigilant in their preparation as they astutely wait for that precise moment to strike, the cunning hunt is upon us and the bar is about to be loaded, the alpha is ready to PROCLAIM HIS DOMINANCE.

THE PROCLAMATION OF DOMINANCE: “THE STAGE”

The battle has begun and the first shots are fired by tertiary omegas, those who came to sharpen their skills, feel the lay of the land, and hopefully return at another battle to take an attempt at the alpha.  They move through their lifts fast following each other in an almost repetitive march of small kilogram jumps.  However, their approach is not with out stern attention to their preparation and strategy.  As the alpha piers across the grounds, he remembers the days he was amongst that heard, he becomes agitated by the desire to pounce, but is quickly tamed by his facilitator, who quickly attempts to channel the athletes aggression into another warm-up attempt.

The next wave of attacks will come from the bulk of the betas.  These are the challengers who have earned their stripes, the right to be among the alphas.  They will take attempts likely higher than they ever have with almost reckless abandonment for their bodies and minds.  It is as though they are in a fight or flight state and they can scream nothing but fight.  They will stop at nothing; pain, injury, fatigue, fear, all wash away as they have one goal in mind and that is to dethrone the king.  Yet often, even this immensely intense desire to succeed is corroded by their own corruption.  Perhaps it is the hysteria of the moment, the preoccupation with perceptual value, or lack of mental cognizance that does them in.

As the final attempts near, the alpha sit patiently, as to almost peer down upon all those who have yet to even achieve a lift equaling their first attempt.  Failure’s scent fills the room like gloomy cloud of smog washes over the cemetery.  The carcasses of challengers dreams are what remains from the thunderous barrage of misses that has just rained down.  The mood in the room transitions from hopeful enlightenment to an ominous fatigue ridden aura reality as the alpha now takes his first march out to the platform. 

He calmly approaches the platform finding his focal point within the crowd and in an almost gliding like manner swiftly makes his way over to the chalk bin.  As the alpha takes his battle position, each with their own unique pre-attack ritual, he sits patiently as the clock winds down.  He waits for that precise moment when he can align his mind, body, and spirit, and then… it happens. He strikes with incredible precision and speed, landing with poise and aggression intermingled like a creation only a god could create and only an athlete could imagine.  Once awarded his kill he drops the bar in almost effortless fashion as to once again PROCLAIM HIS DOMINANCE over this kingdom.

“DECONSTRUCTING THE AMBIGUITY OF BURNOUT”

by Nick Serio

A Brief History  (bare with me through this one)…

Burnout as a conceptual and psychological detriment has been challenged and discussed since the early 1970’s.  When initially theorized it was designed to explain, recognize, and define an increased lack of production among employees and or management in the workplace [1].  Initially the concept was extremely ambiguous and much too encompassing to provide any creditable information that could have resulted in proper therapeutic treatment for its victims[2].

However, in the early 1980’s, the concept of burnout was provided its first scientifically recognized definition, “a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced sense of performance accomplishment among individuals who work in a service industry [3].  The ambiguity of burnout stems from two points of conjecture that have been long standing.  The difficulty in defining what comprises burnout and separating burnout from some other closely related and likely linked conditions impacting similar populations (i.e. depression, fatigue, overtraining, staleness, and dropout) [4].

In the late 1990’s to early 2000’s, this initial definition was used to form a three-dimensional construct bounding its founding concepts.  The three dimension were emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy.  Emotional exhaustion is referencing emotional depletion and elevated levels of fatigue.  Cynicism is recognized as a distant and indifferent attitude towards colleagues and or consumers.  Professional efficacy is likely a consequence of burnout and is centered around personal value in work related accomplishments, responsibilities and or occupational role [5].  These three would be the determinants that would allow burnout to be applied to other institutions such as academia and eventually the world of sport and training.

To facilitate this concept’s use with athletes researchers altered the constructs to make them applicable to sport.  Physical exhaustion was added to emotional exhaustion in an effort  to evaluate the impact of intense training and/or competition on the physical and psychological capacity of an athlete.  Professional efficacy was altered to a reduced sense of accomplishment, which is used to demonstrate the diminishing ability to perform up to previous achievements or performance expectations.  Sport devaluation replaced cynicism  and represented a loss of interest, apathy, and resentment towards the sport, teammates, and coaches. These same researchers later provided a more concise definition of this concept; “ a withdrawal from sport or training noted by a reduced sense of accomplishment, devaluation/resentment of sport, and physical/psychological exhaustion” [6].

Discussion…

Unfortunately, the true constructs of burnout may always be ambiguous as will the signs, symptoms, and consequences to the general population.  However, it is our hope that through these next few articles we can address some of this ambiguity and provide clarity to your understanding of the constructs of burnout.  In turn it is important to us as coaches to be able to recognize these signs and symptoms early and to educate our community to do the same.  Preventative efforts and altered approaches can be taken to monitor and prevent burnout and it’s deeply routed consequences.  The difficulty lies in distinguishing it’s early warnings.

As promised…Here is our way less ambiguous definition of BURNOUT:

One of the main goals we strive to always achieve when concerning our approach to strength an conditioning of youth athletes is the necessity to simplify.  This simplicity is emulate in everything we do, from our facility layout, to our teaching practices, to our movement evaluations.  It is with this goal that we hope to be able to reach as many athletes as possible with one unified language.  Thus, our definition for “burnout” must follow suit and be able to be understood by not only our athletes but our entire youth athletic community.  It is with this simplicity that we will bring clarity and hope that this clarity will bring about change.

Burnout:

Is a psycho-physiological condition that is most notable brought on by ineffective efforts to meet excessive demands. It will likely present symptoms similar to withdrawal, resentment, fear, and/or apathy of attitude or performance.

References:

[1] Freudenberger, H. J. (1974). Staff burnout. Journal of Social Issues, 30, 159–165.

[2] Goodger, K. I., Lavallee, D. E., Gorely, P. J., & Harwood, C. G. (2007). Burnout in sport: A systematic review. The Sport Psychologist, 21, 127–151.

[3] Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1984). Burnout in organizational settings. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Applied social psychology annual: Applications in organizational settings (Vol. 5, pp. 133–153). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

[4] Raedeke, T. D. (1997). Is athlete burnout more than just stress? A sport commitment perspective. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 19, 396–417.

[5] Schaufeli, W. B., & Taris, T. W. (2005). Commentary: The conceptualisation and measurement of burnout: Common ground and worlds apart. Work & Stress, 19, 256– 262.

[6] Raedeke, T. D., Lunney, K., & Venables, K. (2002). Understanding athlete burnout:

Coach perspectives. Journal of Sport Behavior, 25, 181–201.

[7] Goodger, K., Lavellee, D., Gorely, T., & Harwood, C. (2010). Burnout in sport: Understanding the process- from early warning signs to individual intervention. In J. Williams (Ed.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (6th Ed). (Pp 492-511). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Does the Anabolic Window Truly Exist?

RESEARCH TEAM QUESTIONS #2

Anabolic Window…. (1-hour, 2-hours, None at all?)

Attempting to research and or decipher research centered around nutrition and it’s measurable significance when related to athletic performance can be difficult and some what ambiguous. The trouble with nutritional data is that the factors affecting the results can be so vague and limiting that the data can be skewed in truly any direction the researchers see fit. Hence the plethora of privately funded research that takes place in the dietary supplement industry. This issue has led to hundreds of “fad” diets backed by poorly designed research studies providing highly subjective information while attempting to seclude actual facts (i.e. much of the vitamins and mineral supplementation we see available today). Apologies for the overly opinionated comments I am merely trying to elude to how difficult nutrition can be to study. Even when all intentions are positive and the researchers concern are grounded in desire for investigating the truth; there still lies the inevitable factor that the intake of nutrients can effect each individual grossly different than the next.

The question we were posed was,

“Does an anabolic window really exist?”

Perhaps the most prominent question in the world of athletic performance with regard to macronutrient manipulation is the critical understanding of pre and post competition and or workout nutrition?

This question is spurred from a general consensus or belief in the idea that an “anabolic window” exists post workout. In addressing these topics I will attempt to answer (a) what is the anabolic window, (b) does it actually exist, (c) if it does how long does the window last, (d) and how important is pre-exercise nutritional intake.

WHAT IS THIS “ANABOLIC WINDOW?”

Macro and micronutrient timing has been widely researched and reviewed over the past two decades, especially when concerned with their intake surrounding a conditioning or competition event. Several researchers (3,5,9) have suggested or made reference to an idea of an “anabolic window” following a workout or competition event. These references are made with regard to the goal of maximizing an athlete’s exercise-induced muscular adaptations post workout (7). Some even suggest that this introduction of nutrients immediately following a training event can maximize improvements in body composition when related to lean-body mass (6). However, this topic has provide much controversy in the nutritional world and has led to many conflicting and disputing research studies.

The true issue with deciphering the relevance, timing, and or length of the “anabolic window” is that most case studies involving its relevance were conducted under the assumption that exercise or competition is performed in a fasted state (1). Thus, because in a fasted state muscle protein breakdown can be higher than norms, the addition of resistance exercise will likely increase these decremented levels. Therefore, exercise performed in a fasted state would absolutely need post-nutrient intake to combat the current catabolic state (8).

With such conflicting research and evidence some researchers have begun to suggest that pre-workout dietary practices maybe equally or even more important that post workout consumption (13). In addition Burd, Tang, Moore, and Phillips (2009) and Yang et. al., 2012 suggested that age and training level greatly affect the absorption and breakdown of protein and glycogen pre and post exercise bouts (2, 14).

LET’S TAKE A STEP BACK THOUGH…WHY IS NUTRIENT

INTAKE SO IMPORTANT PRE AND POST WORKOUT?

During exercise or competition there is generally a huge need for energy and musculature activation. Due to these two necessities both the bodies energy stores as well as it’s muscular tissue become depleted and damaged (primarily through the hydrolysis and oxidation of glycogen and amino acids). This intense event must be circumvented or combatted with an ingestion of proper nutrient values following and sometimes even during it’s existence. Therefore, post workout dietary requirements have become the main focus of many research studies with the ultimate goal of understanding how and when to attempt to restore energy store levels and begin the rebuilding of musculature tissues. Researchers believe that there is a distinct period post workout or competition in which the body will replenish and restore in a super compensated fashion in an attempt to enhance both body composition and future exercise performance (1).

Hence, the inception of the idea of an “anabolic window.”

Lambert and Flynn (2012) found that glycogen was responsible for approximately 80% of ATP production during a resistance training event (10). In addition, Macdougal et. al., (1999) and Robergs et. al., (1991) found that exercise intensity directly affected a reduction in glycogen stores (11, 12). Thus, suggesting a grave need for post workout replenishment of glucose and or protein nutrients (i.e. the anabolic window). However, as mentioned earlier Tipton et.al., (2007) found significant evidence that pre-workout consumption of 20g of whey protein greatly increased (4.4 times the normal levels) muscular protein synthesis (MPS) and that these pre-exercise levels did not fall back to normal levels for 3 hours following an hour of resistance training (13). Furthermore, Kumar, Atherton, Smith and Rennie (2009), found that exercising in a fasted stated presented elevated pre-exercise levels of muscle protein breakdown (i.e. a catabolic state (degradation or breakdown state)) (8). This rise elevated greatly throughout the workout and remained significantly raised for approximately 200 minutes post workout. Thus suggesting further research needs to be conducted into the importance of pre-exercise consumption and the resulting effect on post workout consumption.

The furthering of athletic performance (i.e. hypertrophy or muscular growth) is dependent on the body being in an anabolic state (growth state). One of the main limiting factors of remaining in an anabolic state is a rise in AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) as it attempts to limit anabolic pathways (i.e. protein synthesis) by stimulating the need for energy producing pathways such at glucose transport (1). Creer et. al., (2005) suggested that the phosphorylation of protein kinase is largely dependent on pre-exercise levels of glycogen (4). Again, this may suggest the ability to impair or even refute the existence of an anabolic window with proper pre-exercise dietary practices.

OK…… SO, THE “ANABOLIC WINDOW” MIGHT EXIST? WHAT ABOUT PRE- WORKOUT INTAKE?

So, we now know that main limiting factors affecting the existence, length, and significance of an “anabolic window,” will likely be an athletes age, training level, workout intensity and the most important being their pre-workout consumption.

Aragon and Shoenfeld (2013) provide much evidence suggesting that pre-workout consumption of both a fast absorbing carbohydrate and protein substrate would elicit elevated levels of muscular protein synthesis during and post workout (1). While this data would also need further research is does suggest the idea that pre-workout dietary practices maybe just as important if not more important than post-workout practices.

It would be my suggestion that to follow the advice of Aragon and Sheonfeld (2013) and minimize the gap between dietary intake to no longer than 2-3 hours apart surrounding your workout. With this practice it would be the hope that your pre and post workout muscle protein synthesis and glycogen levels should remain high. Until more research is available it will likely be wise to consume both pre and post a fast absorbing carbohydrate and protein substrate. According to research the recommended dose for hypertrophy is .8-2.0 g/kg of bodyweight for protein and as high as 4g/kg of carbohydrate (1).

1. Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post exercise anabolic window? The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(5), 1-12.

2. Burd NA, Tang JE, Moore DR, Phillips SM: Exercise training and protein metabolism: influences of contraction, protein intake, and sex-based differences. J Appl Physiol 2009,  106(5):1692-701.

3. Candow DG, Chilibeck PD: Timing of creatine or protein supplementation and resistance training in the elderly. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2008,  33(1):184-90

4. Creer A, Gallagher P, Slivka D, Jemiolo B, Fink W, Trappe S: Influence of muscle glycogen availability on ERK1/2 and Akt signaling after resistance exercise in human skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol 2005,  99(3):950-6.

5. Hulmi JJ, Lockwood CM, Stout JR: Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010,  7:51.

6. Ivy J, Portman R: Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications; 2004. 

7. Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J: International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008,  5:17.

8. Kumar V, Atherton P, Smith K, Rennie MJ: Human muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise. J Appl Physiol 2009,  106(6):2026-39

9. Kukuljan S, Nowson CA, Sanders K, Daly RM: Effects of resistance exercise and fortified milk on skeletal muscle mass, muscle size, and functional performance in middle-aged and older men: an 18-mo randomized controlled trial. J Appl Physiol 2009,  107(6):1864-73.

10. Lambert CP, Flynn MG: Fatigue during high-intensity intermittent exercise: application to bodybuilding. Sports Med. 2002,  32(8):511-22.

11. MacDougall JD, Ray S, Sale DG, McCartney N, Lee P, Garner S: Muscle substrate utilization and lactate production. Can J Appl Physiol 1999,  24(3):209-15.

12. Robergs RA, Pearson DR, Costill DL, Fink WJ, Pascoe DD, Benedict MA, Lambert CP, Zachweija JJ: Muscle glycogenolysis during differing intensities of weight-resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol 1991,  70(4):1700-6.

13. Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR: Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2007,  292(1):E71-6

14. Yang Y, Breen L, Burd NA, Hector AJ, Churchward-Venne TA, Josse AR, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM: Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis with graded intakes of whey protein in older men. Br J Nutr 2012,  108(10):1780-8

Sport Specific Training – A Disservice to the Athlete?

by Nick Serio

Purpose:  The purpose of this article is to discuss the differences between sport specific training and strength and conditioning training with the intention of becoming an overall better athlete and well functioning human being!

Main Points:

-“What is the true definition of “Sport Specific” exercises and movement patterns?”

-“When and how often would we at Athletes Warehouse implement them into an athletes training protocol?”

-“How is it possible to train a baseball athlete with the same methodology as a football athlete?”

Take Home Message:  A “Sport Specific” exercise is a movement pattern that is utilized by a strength and conditioning specialist to replicate and/or mimic movements that an athlete might look to create in-competition.  Usually, these movements are accompanied by either a form of force resistance (i.e. bungee, weighted vest, dumbbells, etc.) or some greater necessity for power production (i.e. a plyometric box). While sport specific movement patterns are grossly important to the final phases (i.e. peaking stages) of a program, we believe that it is in the best interest of any athletes training program that the initial phases work toward training the body and mind of an athlete to redefine movement patterns so that they are as biomechanically efficient as possible.

Therefore, starting with or even programming sport specific movement patterns prior to achieving a respectable level of biomechanical efficiency is a disservice to the athlete and their future potential.

As strength and conditioning professionals we feel our athletes and future athletes must understand that our main focus is to FIRST minimize their risk of injury and SECOND begin to maximize their performance potential. This is why training of all athletes regardless of sport traditionally begins from the same platform and eventually develops into specificity.

References:

Clark, M.A., & Lucett, S.C. (2011). “NASM essentials of corrective exercise training.” Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Baltimore, MD.

Zatsiorsky, V.M. (1998). “The kinematics of human motion.” Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL.

 “Sport Specific Training” – a disservice to the ATHLETE?

With the Athletes Warehouse facility finally opening we have had the incredible pleasure of meeting many new athletes and parents from our absolutely awesome new community over the past few weeks.  This has been the greatest opportunity for my staff and I to truly show the passion, knowledge, and the relentlessly obsessive approach we take to making sure our athletes understand that their needs, goals, and drive for success is literally encompassing our every thought (& unfortunately for our significant others that generally means at home as well; as I am writing this at my kitchen counter). With every athlete we have the pleasure of meeting or working with, we attempt to ensure them that we will stop at nothing to provide them with the program and platform needed to minimize their risk and maximal potential. ** Do we want to keep this?**

However, if their needs, goals, and drive for success are truly our paramount focal point, then we must interject the dangers of HONESTY (cue the dark ominous music).  All joking aside the reason my staff and I laugh at situations such as these is because we are about to defy normal tactics, practices, and marketing strategies for a training facility. You see, parents and athletes like to know that their money, hard work, and dedication is going to directly pay off onto the field or court, hence the phrase ‘sport specific.’ Much like in the marketing world where “sex” sells, in our world “speed training” and it’s new cousin, “sport specific training,” are a facilities manager’s golden goose. For the last ten years coaches, trainers, former athletes, and yes, even strength and conditioning professionals, have been making a good dime off clients by selling them the dream of going out and training on a field for hours on end with hurdles, speed ladders, bungees, and any other common apparatus they could dream up. These marketing tactics have lead athletes and their parents to believe there needs to be a higher concentration placed on training ‘sport specifically’ rather than allowing the professional to assure the athlete is biomechanically efficient before trying to complete such movements.

While many of these drills will certainly help improve the athletes form, neuromuscular congruency (central nervous system firing potential), and lead to minor improvements to power, speed, and agility; we can’t possibly expect our athletes to achieve the apex of their potential until we have taken the time to make sure they are proficient and capable of completing these incredibly difficult movement patterns.  (Oh and completing them with horrific form is not what I mean by capable!)

 **Check out our article on “How to Improve Speed & Agility”**

Ok, ok, I know you know speed is truly made through redefining form and technique, developing force, and improving power output….So what do we start with or even how should my athlete train then if not initially or entirely related to sport specific movements?

Now enter, “Biomechanical Analysis” otherwise known as the SQUAT & OVERHEAD SQUAT ANALYSIS to those professionals who don’t find the need to use a multiple thousand dollar machines to evaluate your 15-year-old.  (“Biomechanical Analysis” this is like “speed” and “sports specific’s” new baby cousin…it’s getting all the hype!)

Biomechanical Analysis has been around…oooh…about as long as humans have!  We have constantly been re-evaluating ways to make movement patterns more efficient, whether that relates to actual musculoskeletal movements (i.e. running) or improving how we complete tasks or use equipment (i.e. the sneaker).  With the explosion of the fitness and strength and conditioning industry over the past few years, trying to analyze the way in which we move as human beings and how this proper movement can apply to an athlete’s athletic career has become the main focus of many professionals.

Biomechanics at its core is essentially physics (i.e. forces, levers, power production, etc.).  Physics?…Yuck!…Sounds complicated?  Well, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, but at the same time, it doesn’t have to be!  Essentially, as the client, the strength and conditioning professional needs to get you to understand what your body is supposed to be doing. Then, you can begin to fully grasp how your body is actually moving.

As professionals, we honestly feel it is our job to provide as much education to our athletes as possible. At Athletes Warehouse, our hope is that our athletes will be more educated and prepared than any of their peers, and in most cases some of their future coaches. This extra time spent communicating with our athletes ensures that they can understand when their movement patterns have become inefficient thus causing their risk of injury to rise and their performance potential to decrease.  In Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s book, The Kinematics of Human Motion, he explains that, “Fit humans move easily in an immediate environment, catch and manipulate objects, avoid obstacles, and adjust their motion to the changes in the extra-personal space” (1).  Essentially, Zatsiorsky is stating that if their movements are biomechanically proficient they should have little resistance or difficulty completing normal human function or even athletic movements.  Having the capability to recognize this during practice, training, and most importantly competition is what will separate a great athlete from a novice.

OK! Great, thanks for all the info…But you still haven’t told me how my baseball athlete and football athlete are trained the same way? (said with the best impression of a concerned and/or bored at this point, parent voice)

So, how do I train these two very different athletes ‘the same’?  Well, I don’t!  I actually don’t train any athlete the exact same because every human is different and so are their movement patterns.  However, how I evaluate, program, and progress this athlete will fall under a more general overarching theory or complex.  Explained simply and some what addressed earlier, each athlete should be taken through a series of biomechanical movement patterns exposing their potential inefficiencies (i.e. the air squat, the over head squat, the hanging body control exam, power potential movements, etc.) Each joint in the human body has a very specific set of movement patterns it is designed to produce and resist. Whenever these specific movement patterns deviate from what is considered ‘normal’ it can be presumed that a compensation or muscle imbalance exists in the human movement system (2).   Once inefficiencies are found the athlete should be taken through more specific movement patterns that will require finer motor control thus exposing further information about the causes of any movement dysfunction (under or overactive musculature, damaged musculature, previous injury sites, etc.)

Once the athlete is fully evaluated, the professional has a greater understanding of, not only their current performance capabilities but also their potential RISK(S) of injury. Now the points of focus for training this athlete becomes: (1) To reduce these risks and (2) Begin to focus on maximizing his or her performance.  It is here that the programs of these two athletes will most closely resemble each other because the paramount focus will be on correcting movement patterns, mobility issues, and developing kinematic strength (the body working as a unit rather than each gross muscular segment working independently or rather, inefficiently).  However, as stated earlier, even though the phase may be the same, the likelihood is that the movement issues we are addressing and how we will be addressing them will be very different.

Therefore, I hope it is with this article that our reading population understands that I am by no means saying sport specific movement patterns are not important during an athletes progression. However, it is understood that there is a progressive pattern that needs to be followed. Sport specific movement patterns, because of their complexity in nature, require most athlete’s coaches to preserve these movements for the later progressive phases (i.e. just prior to competition).  Furthermore, sport specific movement patterns are truly what define the given sport and to assume that we would not use them in their entirety would be foolish and from our side, as strength and conditioning professionals would be a definite disservice to the athlete.  As Strength and Conditioning Specialist our main goal when assessing, training, and preparing athletes for competition, fitness, and/or life, is to minimize their risk of injury and then attempt to maximize their performance potential.  As professionals, if we lose sight of this and begin to focus solely on performance capabilities and the potential ways to improve them we are opening our athletes up to not only a greater risk of injury but in fact a potential decrease in overall performance.

References:

Clark, M.A., & Lucett, S.C. (2011). “NASM essentials of corrective exercise training.” Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Baltimore, MD.

Zatsiorsky, V.M. (1998). “The kinematics of human motion.” Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL.

Athletes Warehouse: Redefining the Athlete

220 Tompkins Avenue, Pleasantville, NY 10570

(914)741-1802

Why My Athlete Should Have Been Training Yesterday

3 Part Series: Why My Athlete Should Have Been Training Yesterday

(1) Understanding Growth, Development, Maturation and everything in between.

(2) How does Puberty and Athletics Intersect?

(3) What Should My Athletes Training Program Look Like?

Before delving into these complex transitions within a youth athletes life, I think we should take a moment and dissect some of the common terminology utilized by both the general public and scientists to mark these transitional moments.

Growth: To many, this may simply mean a change in either direction (both positively or negatively) of essentially any attribute of the young child’s life. For the purpose of this discussion, (and really any discussion related to science that we will look at) growth as related to tissue, bone, and many cellular process. Thus, when discussing growth of a youth athlete we could be referencing the increased muscle mass or increased stature due to bone growth. “Growth is the most significant biological activity during the first 20 years or so of life, starting from conception to fun maturity [1].”

Maturation: Interestingly enough we tend to discuss growth as having been altered by the actualization of maturation. Maturation is the peak potential of growth that a given system or process can experience. However, maturation is not unanimous across all process for a given system. For example, a person can become sexually mature having not yet achieved skeletal maturity. This is referencing the timing and tempo of maturity which can not only happen at different paces for each process of a system but also varies from person to person. This VARYING is what creates uniqueness among people.

Timing of Maturity: Is concerned with when a maturation period is achieved.

Tempo of Maturity: Is concerned with the pace at which someone is achieving maturation.

Development: This tends to be used on a broader scale and generally encompasses both growth and maturation processes. Development should be viewed from a qualitative not quantitative perspective in that there is no termination of the development, just how the development is altering based on the systems environment. For example, a baby begins to develop with a biological differentiation of cells, which then form together and create tissue, this tissue continues to develop within the embryonic and fetal stages of the pre-natal environment [1]. However, this development does not stop when the baby is born into the post-natal environment because the tissue continues to develop further and further as it continuously adapts to the needs of the environment with which it is apart of. Thus, the development of an individual is indefinite!

So… why is this important at all when addressing athletic potential, training, and talent identification?

THE PITFALLS OF CATEGORIZING ATHLETES BASED ON CHRONOLOGICAL AGE

Chronological age essentially marks the amount of time a person has been alive. More descriptive than that? It marks the time from conception to death of an individual, involving no variability, change, or unpredictability. Chronological age is strict and rigid and allows no adjustments!

The biggest issue is that people correlate growth, development, and maturation with an individuals chronological age. It takes a picture of an entire individuals lifespan and marks how many years they have been alive. It doesn’t care about someones environment, behavior, etc. Why is it so bad to correlate maturation, growth, and development to chronological age? Because these factors can be altered by the environment, genetics, desires of an individual, and those they interact with.

Next, we are going to look at why using chronological age standards to design a training program can be both dangerous and a disservice to the athlete.

Before we delve into the designing of a program, I want to take first take a moment and clarify the definition of strength and conditioning. Strength and conditioning should really be termed ‘movement therapy’ or ‘performance enhancement.’ As strength and conditioning professionals, we are primarily trying to reduce injury while optimizing performance. This is often accomplished through a myriad of different domains, protocols, and tactics. Unfortunately for the strength and conditioning professional, it is often presumed this will only involve overloading the human system with weight or strenuous exercise. However, as we will discuss at further length in one of our upcoming articles in this series, the goal of strength and conditioning is to stabilize, mobilize, and then maximize the human system.

Now, hopefully you can clearly see the issue with utilizing chronological age standards as the barometer for program creation and implementation (ie. No kids should lift before the age of 13). With this current example, we are assuming that all 13 year olds are at the same growth, maturation, and developmental stage as the rest of their peers. This is not only ridiculous to assume but as stated before, both dangerous and a disservice to a majority of that population.

So, how do we avoid this dilemma and circumvent the program creation pitfalls? One of the leading ways research has pointed to accurately assessing an athlete’s current stage of growth, maturation, and/or development is to consistently ascertain anthropometric measures.

Some of the anthropometrics we take on a consistent basis will include height, weight, girth measurements, sleep, diet, and stress levels. It is with these measures that we feel we can accurately and effectively ensure that our athlete is adequately prepared for the program we are providing from a daily and cyclical approach.

Although some may view this as over the top and not necessary, we view this approach as taking one more step further to redefining the youth athlete. There is a specific set of guidelines and protocols that need to be adhered to in order to ensure the best possible training experience of the athlete. These guidelines and protocols are governed by the current theories established through the latest research standards. It is with these standards that we hope to combine our invaluable experience and thirst for knowledge and advance our athletes to the height of their potential.

Another Take on Strength and Conditioning

PURPOSE: The role that strength and conditioning could & should play in the injury prevention and performance enhancement of youth athletes.

POINTS OF EMPHASIS:

Strength & Conditioning that is positive for all of the youth community, regardless of whether the individual is an athlete or non-athlete.
Absolute Power or Peak Athleticism is predicated on the athlete’s ability to elicit proper sequencing of a given movement. (see kinematic sequencing)
A coach should maximize the attention paid to task orientation and strictly guided practice as opposed to ego oriented randomness which can result in athletic decrements.
Why is it that as a society we feel such pressure to find that edge?  You know that step-up, the ace in the hole, or that special weapon?  The differentiating skill or attribute that we are told is EARNED over thousands of hours of perpetual practice.  Practice that is probably coupled with a blindly driven, vastly unspecific, and more than likely, un-educationally based, BEATING.  Unfortunately, these practice and training domains are now being classified under the same term that at one time embodied values such as sophistication, pride, and mastery of progression.  That term; Strength and Conditioning!

The youth sports market has clearly been on an explosive incline with club teams, summer camps, sports domes, and the almighty sport specific training facilities popping up everywhere like earthworms after a heavy rain; and yet there seems to be no cap on this market and no end in sight.  Except for one little speed bump; the practitioners or consumers of this market (YOUTH ATHLETES) just can’t seem to keep up and stay healthy (cmon kids would ya just toughen up already?).

Since the year 2000, there has been a more than five-fold increase in the annual number of youth injuries related to sport [1].  When this stat is read do you know what the common response is? Well, it must be because the sports are too violent or the kids aren’t playing often enough…right? Aren’t we as American’s obese? It is this ambiguity right here that causes parents to be so befuddled by what to do, or how to correctly manage their youth athletes career.

The truth, yes, in some populations across the US our youth are not active enough and do need more activity.  However, in other areas, where activity level is high (i.e. something scheduled 10 days a week..j/k) we have seen 50% of all injuries be caused by overuse [2].  So, how do we solve this equivocal conundrum?

The answer, Strength and Conditioning!

“STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING IS A PRACTICE THAT WILL NOT ONLY ELICIT POSITIVE BENEFITS FOR THE ATHLETE BUT ALSO THE NON-ATHLETE OR SEDENTARY YOUTH.”

Generally, most overuse injuries are particularly due to a deficiency in the ability to absorb forces.  Meaning although your athlete may train on their own, or work with a coach that is primarily prescribing very sport specific movements (i.e. speed and agility drills), if they have not development structural strength in several foundational movements (i.e. the squat, hinge action, or unilateral movements) they are merely waiting to get injured.

Let’s put this a little simpler: My youth athlete is a baseball player who desires to gain more power hitting.  For years he has worked with hitting coaches and his technique appears flawless, but the increase in power just doesn’t seem to magically appear.  What shall you do next?  More hitting lessons? You are aware of what the definition of insanity is…right?  Well in case not let’s break it down a little further.

In biomechanics terminology the equation of POWER = FORCE x VELOCITY.  So let’s assume your velocity has peaked considering your technique is rather flawless.  The next piece of that equation is to increase the amount of force you can apply to a given object…also known as absolute strength.  However, for absolute strength to be applicable in sport one must have a vast amount of kinetic strength.  This is the ability to transfer energy/force from our center to our exterminates, (core to extremity) and then elicit this force on an object (ie. The ball, puck, or another lineman).

“THUS, THE COMBINATION OF KINETIC STRENGTH AND PROPER TECHNIQUE WILL HELP AN ATHLETE ELICIT THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF ABSOLUTE POWER.”

Ok, great, so I see how strength and conditioning will help create a more powerful or forceful athlete but how does this help prevent my athlete from getting injured (undoubtedly the next question along this dialogue)?  As individuals begin to develop foundational strength, kinetic strength and absolute strength (through movements such as squat, deadlift and varying Olympic lifting movements) they too will begin to develop the capability to handle a load much greater than that of their own body weight and over many repetitions (i.e. through externally loading of a barbell or dumbbell).  Thus, when placed on a playing field they are much more equipped to handle varying forces and movements due to previous strengthening.

So…why is this not more apparent among the youth athlete population?  Through poor qualification restrictions of the strength and conditioning industry, several under qualified coaches have severely tainted a practice that could be vastly beneficial to many.  With poor coaching practices and the mounting potential for injury as load increases, there have been several exercises and exercise practices that have been essential damned to the “That’s way too dangerous” or,  “That can’t be good for you” list.  Yes there is always a risk-reward ratio that needs to be taken into account when deciding on the use of a given exercise but for the most part as long as the individual possesses a normative range of motion and lacks current injury, foundational movements (i.e. squatting, deadlifting, pressing, hanging) should never be condemned.

However, has the damage been done?  Is this why parents insist on paying deplorable amounts of money to watch a coach essential babysit their athlete for 60-90 minutes, as they take them through speed drill after speed drill on a small patch of grass alongside some field they are borrowing?  Hint: Go on Youtube and get those same drills for free and with luck you’ll find a good video and still be within 90% of what you would have gotten out of that hour.

“IT IS OUR HOPE THAT BY EDUCATING A COMMUNITY WE CAN CHANGE THE PERCEPTION HOW A PRACTICE SHOULD BE RUN AND WHAT TRAINING IS NECESSARY TO CULTIVATE FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH!”